It’s not that ministers are averse to looking to the private sector when it
comes to appointing a new chief taxman. So much so, that the phrase poacher
turned gamekeeper has an old-fashioned ring to it. I’m just not sure they would
turn to someone who has spent his career at an accountancy firm and one firm
Nor, I have to say, is there any evidence that the PwC UK chairman actually
wants the job.
Nevertheless while Dave Hartnett himself a lifer, but at HMRC is acting
chairman of the taxman, it’s Poynter who has the highest profile job in
investigating What Went Wrong With Our Data (Daily Mail-style capitals are
And in his report, due tomorrow, he cannot afford to underestimate the
strength of public feeling about the scale of the mismanagement of data and
HMRC phone lines were said to be somewhat less than white hot in the days
following the lost disc announcement. Yet Link, the UK ATM network, said the
number of people changing PIN numbers at cash machines rose by 50% in the three
days immediately after. Meanwhile 62% of adults who receive child benefit
checked their bank statements, with 10% changing passwords and 6% their PINs.
On those numbers alone I can’t think of a government cock-up that has touched
so many people so quickly. And while the perceived threat is far greater than
the real one, it matters.
In bringing sense to this farce, Poynter will need to avoid playing to the
political gallery. And while not pandering to public opinion either, his
findings need to appreciate the very real concerns out there.
He’s picked quite a time to make his debut on the Westminster stage.
Damian Wild is editor in chief of Accountancy Age and blogs at
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